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Monday, June 29, 2015

Exercises for Beginning Voice Actors

Warming up is an essential step in every voice actor’s performance regimen.  Without a proper warm-up, you run the risk of damaging your vocal chords, which can spell disaster for your career.  While doing these exercises is extremely important before a performance, it’s also a good idea to do them at other times.  Regular voice exercises not only keep your vocal chords strong, but they’re also an excellent form of practice, especially for beginning voice actors who are still honing their craft.
Breathing Exercises – Start your warm up routine with a couple of breathing exercises.  Not only does this help you focus on and control your breathing, it will also put you in the right frame of mind for vocal work.  Inhale and exhale deeply several times, then practice pausing after each exhale. You can also inhale and exhale on vowel sounds to work on projection, starting soft and building the sound as  you practice.

Facial and Neck Exercises – Sit or stand and slowly roll  your neck from shoulder to shoulder, then rotate your head and look over each shoulder to warm the throat and neck muscles.  Facial massage will also help prep important voice muscles. Use your fingers to gently massage your face and relax those muscles.

Tongue Exercises – Stick out your tongue as far as you can, then try to reach your chin with it.  Next, try and touch your nose and then each ear with your tongue to work that muscle in advance of your voice work.

Vocal Exercises – Now that your muscles are ready to go, you can start practicing sounds. Try sirens to improve your range, switching octaves while saying “eeee.”  You can also do trills, creating a “rrrr” sound by rolling  your tongue across the roof of your mouth.  PTKT and BDGD (pronounced puh tuh kuh tuh and buh duh guh duh) will exercise your vocal cords even more. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Should You Post Reviews?

There are a few different ways to find success as a voice over actor, but one of the best is through word-of-mouth referrals and positive reviews.  Anymore, reading reviews is just standard procedure for any consumer, and the same is true for people scouting voice talent.  If you’ve gotten reviews for your work, you should absolutely be posting these on your website. Here’s why:

Nearly 80% of people read reviews before they decide on a product or service – in this case, that’s you and your voice talent.

Of that 80%, most people put a lot of value on those reviews. In fact, 88% say that they trust reviews just as much as they would a word-of-mouth referral.

Online reviews are usually pretty dependable, especially when they come from third-party sites.  Copying them to your personal website is easy and doesn’t take much time, and there is a lot of potential for pay-off.

Reviews tell potential employers a number of things about you, including your experience, quality of your previous work, your professional strengths, and what it’s like to work with you.  All of these factors add up to let people know whether they want to hire you.  For example, maybe some of your previous experience included difficult scripts or tight deadlines.  Reviews allow past employers to elaborate on these specifics and then highlight your strengths and skill set. Reviewers will also often include their personal take on working with you. So if you’re a friendly, dependable, and hard-working person with loads of talent, no doubt you’ll get a glowing review!

If you’re not already posting your reviews on your site, start now.   Don’t be shy about inviting the people you’ve worked for to post a review on a reputable site, too.  If you’re great to work with, they won’t mind – and there is great potential for reward!  It’s an excellent way to market yourself, and you’ll also be reassuring potential employers of your talent and professionalism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tips for Promoting Your Voice Over Talent

There’s a lot that goes into building your career as a voice over actor. From acting classes and voice lessons to attending conferences and seminars, your calendar is probably pretty full.  But how much time have you allotted to promoting yourself and your talent?  If your answer is ‘not much’, then you may want to shift some of your focus to more aggressively marketing your unique brand.  Here are some tips to help you get started:

Set measurable goals for yourself.  Plan to devote a certain amount of time to self-promotion, say 10%, and then make it a numbers game.  For instance, try to get a certain number of contacts in one month, or land a certain number of auditions.  Set these attainable goals, and don’t forget to keep track of your progress!

Find your niche and make sure that your promotional activities are focused on it.  Most successful voice over actors have discovered what it is that make them unique, and that’s where most of their work is focused.  Find what makes you special, and then be sure to include that on everything from your website to your business cards.

Speaking of promotional activities, make sure you are consistent in your marketing.  If your website describes you as an audiobook narration pro, don’t spend your time on social media promoting yourself as a radio imaging expert.  Sure, your talent is multi-faceted and you should absolutely market all aspects of it, just don’t confuse the message you’re sending.

Network – both online and off – to make as many contacts as possible. This may mean meeting people in-person at conferences or workshops, or making connections through social media or email.  You should be doing both, as this is one of the top ways to make your name – and your voice – known among others in the industry.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Is a Home Studio Right for You?

Whether you’re a seasoned voice over actor or a newbie just entering the business, the thought of setting up a home studio has probably crossed your mind. There are a number of advantages to having a studio at home, and if you’ve got the digital-savvy to manage sound, then it may be the right choice for you.  However, there are also distinct benefits to working with a traditional studio.  Let’s look at both options.

Advantages of a Home Studio
Just a couple of decades ago, home studios were reserved for only the most successful voice actors.  But with the advancements of technology and the ease of operating it, more voice actors than ever are now making their own home-based studios.  Obviously, the biggest advantage of doing this is the time and money saved by not having to travel.  Even if a studio is in the same city as you, it still takes a chunk out of your schedule to go there and work.  Home studios also allow actors to accomplish much more in a shorter period of time, and with quicker turnaround times.  Plus, as with any work-from-home gig, you get to manage your time according to your schedule, balancing work, family and other commitments so that it works best for you.

Advantages of a Traditional Studio
Traditional studios have some benefits as well.  These facilities have been built for the sole purpose of recording and formatting sound, so all the equipment is there and being managed by professionals – all you have to do is speak into the mic.  This is often a better choice for complex projects, as experienced production staff are trained to work with these types of jobs.  Depending on how much work you do, it may also be more cost-effective to use a traditional studio.  While the equipment to set up a home studio is certainly less expensive than it was, it’s still not cheap.  It may be more economic to simply pay the hourly fees at an off-site studio rather than invest in home equipment.

Before you do anything, carefully evaluate the pros and cons of both scenarios.  Take the time to crunch the numbers and see if a home studio is worth the investment, or if you’re better off sticking with a traditional studio. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

What’s it’s Really Like to be a Voice Over Actor

Any seasoned voice actor will tell you that working in the industry can be a blast – but it’s not all fun and games. Many inexperienced people get into the field thinking that they’ll immediately land some work, and then the scripts will start rolling in and they’ll be set for an easy and long-lasting career.  Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a pipe dream, and there’s a lot more that goes on behind the mic in the life of a voice over actor.

You Need to Have Acting Talent
For starters, you need to have at least a little acting talent, and if you don’t, then you need to enroll in some acting classes ASAP.  Even though you don’t see them on a TV or movie screen, people who do voice overs are actors.  They are playing a role, whether they’re narrating a documentary or supplying the instructions in an online training video.  Part of playing that role is doing so convincingly so the audience buys it and the message is successfully delivered to the target audience.

Be Prepared to Hustle
Voices over actors are constantly marketing themselves, whether it’s to agents or directly to potential employers.  To succeed in the industry, you can’t just hope that someone will hear your voice and decide you’re the next hot thing.  You have to work at it – recording demos, attending workshops and seminars, networking, and putting yourself out there time and again. You need to recognize your niche, recognize the needs of others, and then look for a match and actively pursue it.

You’re the Background
You’re probably already aware of this, but as a voice actor, you’re a ‘behind the scenes’ person.  You’re not usually the star, and you’re probably not going to be recognized on the street.  While this appeals to many people, some people get into the industry seeking fame and fortune.  These things are impossible, but they’re certainly not the norm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tips for Your Voice Over Script

There are a lot of factors that come into play when creating the perfect voice over.  Aside from the actual voice talent, a major component for success is the script and how it’s written.  If you’re drafting a script, here are some tips to help make it easier for the voice actor AND more effective for your target audience.

Keep it Simple
Nothing mucks up a script faster than trying to make it grander than it is. Keep it simple, be direct, and avoid unnecessary language – especially big words that will leave some of your audience scratching their heads and seeking out the nearest dictionary.  Simplicity makes for scripts that are easier on your voice and your audience, and there’s less chance for you to stray off topic as well.

Make it Conversational
Along the same vein as keeping your script simple is to make it conversational.  You want a script that can be read in a conversational manner, which will better appeal to your audience.  Listeners respond better to messages that are delivered in a less formal way, so write your script as if you were talking to a friend.

Punctuation Matters
While punctuation may not be as important as content to some people, there’s no denying it plays an important role. Using proper punctuation will help the voice over actor as he or she is reading the script, guiding them through pauses and stops and decoding which words need to be emphasized.

Read it Aloud Yourself
Once you’ve written the script, read the whole thing beginning to end out loud.  Reading aloud will help you catch errors and ensure that it all flows right.  You will save yourself a lot of time, money, and effort by taking a few minutes to read your work out loud and make any adjustments before you hand it over to your voice talent.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

What is Radio Imaging and What does it have to do with Voice Over?

Any time you tune into your favorite radio station, you will hear radio imaging. Simply put, radio imaging is the audio brand your radio station is putting forth.  All of the intros, promos, and other sounds that help you identify a station are what comprises the station’s radio imaging.  Each of these is closely tied to voice over as well, as they all rely on it to get the message across.  Let’s look a little deeper:

I still don’t get it – what exactly IS radio imaging?
Okay, imagine when you turn your radio on to your favorite station.  In between all of the songs, commercials, and DJ segments, there are little ads and blurbs that help you identify that station. For example, you may hear a bit that includes the radio station frequency and other details.  This is usually done in a catchy way, with voice over and music that matches the brand of the station.  Every time you hear that bit, you are able to identify the station you’re on.   As a whole, radio imaging is a station’s way of branding themselves, so listeners can readily identify the station.

What types of radio imaging are out there?
There are all sorts of radio imaging possibilities.  There are intros, sweepers, jingles, liners, music beds, bumpers, shotguns and more.  These names may sound funny, but each of these serves a unique purpose in creating the stations brand – and none of it can be done without the talents of a voice actor.

Ok, you keep saying voice actors are involved, but how?
Voice over comprises a large segment of radio imaging. For every intro, sweeper or jingle, a voice actor has supplied their talent to bring that bit to life. While other types of audio – music or other sounds – are usually present in radio imaging, it’s the voice over actor that delivers the message to consumers; even it’s just a 20-second station identifier.

So the next time you’re listening to your favorite station, pay attention for those examples of radio imaging – and know that a talented voice actor out there helped create it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

How to Find the Agent that’s Right for You

For most voice actors, the importance of finding a good agent cannot be overstated.  Agents act in many capacities for their clients – they scout casting calls and auditions, they help you land jobs, they provide advice and critiques, and sometimes they are your cheerleader when you most need one.  The key, however, is to find the agent that’s right for you.

Start Networking
If you haven’t already, you need to start networking. Attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to learn as much as you can and to connect with other industry professionals.  You will usually make a lot of great contacts at these events, and agents will frequently attend them to scout new talent. 

Get Referrals
Word-of-mouth referrals are great for beginning voice over actors. Doing an internet search for agents in your area can be risky, as there are many people out there who are simply looking to take advantage of an inexperienced voice actor. Instead, ask some of the contacts you made while networking who they use, or if they can recommend any other reputable agencies.

Introduce Yourself
Once you have a list of a few prospective agents, it’s time to introduce yourself.  Start with a phone call or email, and be sure to have your demo handy.  Also, be prepared to sell yourself.  Any agent worth their salt will ask you to prove your worth, because they need to be confident that you will be benefitting them as well. Know your strengths and find your niche, so you can explain exactly what you have to offer.

Listen to your Intuition

Finally, go with your gut. If you’ve reached out to a few agents but something feels off, don’t sign a contract. You need to feel at ease with your agent and know that they are someone you can work with and trust long-term. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Finding Your Niche as a Voice Over Actor

Any experienced voice over actor will tell you that it’s important to find your niche in this profession. There are a number of different genres and styles of voice over, from radio ads to video game voices to museum guides, and not every actor is suited to every genre. When you’re just starting out, it’s vital to figure out just where you fit in and where exactly your talents lie.

Discover Your Strengths (and your Weaknesses)
Spend some time practicing a variety of voices to help determine your strengths.  Listen to voices from different genres, and try to mimic them. You’ll notice that different genres have entirely different sounds, so use them as a model and try to recreate that unique sound.  Be sure to record yourself, and as you listen back to it, you’ll begin to see which styles work best for your sound.

Type Casting isn’t always a Bad Thing
In the voice over profession, there are thousands of other voices competing for the same work. Oftentimes, employers or agents will be on the lookout for a very specific sound. They don’t want to wade through hundreds of voices to find what they’re looking for, so it can be helpful to type cast yourself. Having a well-defined sound and style can make it easier for you to land work.

Market Your Specialty

One you’ve found your voice over specialty, it’s time to market it. If you already have an agent, he or she can help you do this, but what if you don’t have an agent?  This actually can be a good thing.  When you’re searching for an agent, already knowing what your niche is can help you make the right connections. Most reputable agents are very particular about who they take on, and they are looking for voice over actors to fill genre vacancies in their rosters.  With an already-defined niche, you’ll save time and effort for them and yourself. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Tips for Finding Success as a Voice Actor

Even if you have natural voice talent and a great sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll find success as a voice over actor.  There’s a lot more that goes into it than just “having a knack for it.”   A successful career in the voice over industry requires time, persistence, dedication, patience, and of course, skill.  If these are things you can supply, then you’ve got a good start.  Here are a few other tips to help you along the way:

Practicing is the number one thing you can do to hone your talent, improve your skills, and perfect your sound.  Set aside a minimum of 15 minutes per day to practice, being sure to record it so you can play it back and listen to yourself.  Try a diverse sample of voices and sounds to expand your range, and mimic other successful voice over actors you hear.  If you can afford it, get a coach to help you with your acting skills and timing.

Getting to know other people in the industry is another key component of becoming a successful voice actor. Connecting with other voice acting professionals can help you expand your skill level and get your name and unique sound out there.  There are a number of voice actors’ groups to join, along with classes and workshops that provide opportunities for learning and meeting others.

Market Yourself
Having a solid marketing plan in place will also help you on the road to success. This plan should include a demo and a list of contacts to send it to.  Obviously, your demo should include your best work, but it should also be diverse so your range is adequately reflected.

Get an Agent

Having an agent represent you can also be a big help.  An agent can help you narrow your focus and find work that suits your sound.  An agent will get your name and voice out there, as well as connect you with casting calls and auditions.  Depending on their experience, they can also help you navigate what can be a complicated and competitive industry.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Will Professional Voice Over Really Improve Your Sales?

There are a number of reasons why companies opt to include professional voice actors in their marketing strategies, but one of the biggest motives is improved sales. Yes, adding professional voice over really can make an impact on your sales figures. If you’ve been on the fence about spending the extra money to have an experienced voice actor deliver your message, here are a few things to consider.

Clear call to action – Voice actors are trained to deliver clear, concise messages.  They also understand the importance of enunciation, inflection, and timing, all of which are important in relaying your company’s message. You want to create a clear call to action for consumers, which is directly correlated to sales.  A professional voice actor knows how to do this.

Enhanced credibility – Most listeners can tell the difference between a voice actor and a regular Joe Blow reading from a script.  Some of it has to do with the natural sound qualities of the voice, but a lot of it is that professional voice actors know how to use their voices to appeal to audiences and make the biggest impact.  In addition to having a bigger influence on listeners, choosing a pro also gives your company more credibility. It makes YOU seem more professional, reliable, and trustworthy, which can only help your sales.

Stronger bond between you and your audience – Connecting with your target audience is crucial in securing a sale, and a professional voice actor can help you strengthen that bond.  Using the qualities discussed previously (inflection, timing, etc.), an experienced voice actor can actually help you make better connections with your listeners, leading to potential sales boosts.

Each of these factors work together to help you meet your marketing goals – including improved sales.  Spending the extra money on an experienced professional is almost always worth it, and there is a direct link between this type of professional marketing and improved ROI.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Is a Male or Female Voice Right for Your Project?

Making the decision between using a male or female voice for your project can be tough.  The voice you use can be the “make or break” factor in your project’s success, and gender is at the basis of this.  Fortunately, experts have committed time and effort into researching the relationship between male/voices and audience perception.  Here’s what they found:

  • When asked which voice sounded more forceful, 48% of respondents said male voices had greater forcefulness, while 49% reported that gender did not play a role.
  • When asked which voice sounded more soothing, 46% said that female voices were more soothing, while 46% answered that gender made no difference.
  • When asked which voice was more persuasive, the results were fairly even. 18% said a male voice was more persuasive, while 19% said female. 64% reported that gender did not matter in terms of persuasiveness.

So what does this information mean for your decision? If you are creating a forceful or soothing message, roughly half of your audience will care which voice you go with. If you choose a male voice for a more forceful message and a female voice for a soothing one, then you’ll satisfy the vast majority of your listeners.

Obviously, gender can have a big impact on your voice over project.  When choosing between male or female voices, most industry experts will agree that men’s voices are better suited to projects providing factual, authoritative information.  Women’s voices, on the other hand, are usually perceived as understanding, compassionate, and helpful, and they work best for projects like instructional videos or web narration.

So which voice is better for your project – male or female?  The best way to decide is to determine your target demographic, and then consider the factors above.  Ask yourself: who are you speaking to, and which voice will best deliver your message? 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Voice Over Networking Tips

Whether you’re a voice over veteran or you’ve only just begun in this exciting field, you’re probably aware that networking is an important part of finding success.  Making connections within the industry can help you develop your talent and make important contacts with agents and other artists.  Here are a few tips to help you as you navigate the complex waters of voice over networking.

  •    Make as many contacts as you can.  Sure, you may sign up for a workshop or attend a seminar with one particular goal in mind, or with the hope of meeting a specific person, but don’t limit yourself to that.  Reach out to as many people as possible and keep in mind that sometimes the best opportunities can come from the most unexpected sources.
  •   Be consistent with your attendance at conference and other networking opportunities.  Regularly taking part in events, even if it’s the same events year after year, will make your face – and your unique voice – recognizable in the industry.
  •   Know your specialty. Successful voice over actors are the ones who have found their niche; in other words, they have a unique sound that fits a certain criteria, and they play to that strength.  When networking, know what your specialty is and be ready to describe it to others.
  •    Think about others’ needs too.  While you may know exactly what you have to offer, remember that other people may be looking for something else.  Instead of trying to convince them that they need you, learn what their needs are first and then decide if it’s worth your and their time.
  •     Remember that networking goes both ways – helping yourself AND helping others.  Making positive connections and helping others advance their careers as well as your own will help you build a good reputation and expand your networking base, which will  help you in the long run!